Raleigh, NC - On a day that the Florida A&M men’s tennis started out hot, the day ended ice cold as the Rattlers again finished runners-up in the MEAC Tennis Championship. The Rattlers fell 4-2 to the South Carolina State Bulldogs, much like they have for the last three years.
Head coach Carl Goodman, Ph.D. felt the time and circumstance was right for the team, but bad breaks at the wrong time thwarted the effort. “The effort was there. One of our biggest Achilles heels was closing out. There was one particular position that we had the opportunity to close out and we didn’t. That pressure adds up and we didn’t handle it well,” Goodman said.
The Rattlers came out of the box as expected, winning the doubles point. Senior Temue-ra Asafu-Adjaye and got the win in the No.3 slot, while 2013 MEAC Player of the Year, Salif Kante, and Takura Happy closed out the point winning their match at the No.1 slot.
“It’s a heartbreaker not winning this tournament. We were ready for it, but we just didn’t get it done,” Kante said. He would do his best though, defeating Tomas Bizon 6-1, 6-3 at the number one position. That made the score 2-0 in favor of the Rattlers, with other slots ahead in their matches as well.
In doing so, he proved to the audience gathered to watch him play, that he was indeed the top player in the conference. In the second set, Bizon smashed a return that would have bypassed virtually any tennis player on the receiving end of it, but Kante reached up with his 6’3” frame and put the ball back in play out of the reach of Bizon for the point. The play drew applause form both Rattlers, Bulldogs and general bystanders at the tourna-ment. Even Bizon, in common tennis courtesy, acknowledged the play.
In the No.6 slot, Asafu-Adjaye took the first set 6-5, and was ahead 5-2 in the second set with match point. After a few missed points and an injury that hobbled him for the dura-tion of the match, S.C. State’s Marius Dragoi defeated Asafu-Adjaye 7-5 in the second set, tieng the match, and went on to shut him out 6-0 in the final set. That match was the pendulum that began to swing in the Bulldogs’ favor.
SCSU’s Anton Protsenko defeated Chidi Gabriel in the No.2 slot 6-4, 6-4 to make the score 2-1, in favor of the Rattlers. Gabriel threw everything at Protsenko, but untimely errors sealed the fate of the match.
In the No.4 slot, Admire Mushonga fell 6-3, 6-4 to Peteris Vinogradovs. This tightened the match to 2-2.
Takura Happy was battling Juri Stiburek in the No.5 slot, Zack Evenden was squaring off with Artemiy Nikitin, and Asafu-Adjaye was losing momentum in his match. In five minute span, Evenden went down 7-5, 2-6 and 1-6. Nearly simultaneously, the No.6 match ended, securing the victory for SCSU.
The Rattlers, once again would be relegated to runner-up in the conference. “Our goal is to reload not re-build. We’ve got a couple of young guys on the team that are good and energetic. We’ll get that Rattler tradition and spirit instilled in them and we’ll be ready to compete. This was a hard loss, but we’ll be back,” Goodman concluded.